They were angry and frustrated. And given the chance to face the lawmakers and others who can make their lives safer, high school students who a week ago were running from gunfire pointedly demanded change Wednesday night from Washington and the National Rifle Association.
Survivors of the massacre at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, took center stage at a town hall hosted by CNN as thousands of community members cheered on the young people thrust into the national spotlight by a massacre that killed 17 people.
The students-turned-gun-control advocates, their teachers and parents asked frank questions of Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson and Rep. Ted Deutch about whether they would support banning certain assault-style rifles and refuse to take money from the NRA.
“We would like to know why do we have to be the ones to do this? Why do we have to speak out to the (state) Capitol? Why do we have to march on Washington, just to save innocent lives?” asked senior Ryan Deitsch, his voice rising with each question.
The Stoneman Douglas students and parents also confronted NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch, who said the organization feels the system for buying firearms is flawed and too many people who shouldn’t be able to buy guns are getting through the cracks.
The town hall on Wednesday night followed days of sit-ins, walkouts and demonstrations in solidarity with survivors of the massacre.
Not everyone was pleased with what they heard.
Avery Anger, 14, who hid in a closet during the shooting, said she didn’t know what to think after the town hall. “It was more of a debate than a discussion,” she said. She entered the town hall with one question — “is it going to be safe for me to go back to school?” By the end, she still was unsure. “I don’t feel like they answered the question.”